Istanbul: Emergency workers were battling on Tuesday to save 18 Turkish miners trapped deep underground after a coal mine collapsed, letting in a deluge of water.
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz warned that time was running out in the rescue operation at the mine in the district of Ermenek in Turkey`s southern province of Karaman, with the water level rising all the time.
Workers and coalminers together held a massive blue pipe that was placed down the shaft in a bid to syphon out the water, television pictures showed.
The accident was the latest disaster to hit the Turkish mining industry after 301 workers were killed in May in an explosion at a mine in Soma in the west of the country.
"The gallery they were working in was flooded by water," regional governor Murat Koca told Turkish television rejecting earlier reports that the accident was caused by an explosion.
Fears were growing over the fate of the remaining workers who were believed to be over 300 metres (1,000 feet) underground.
"We think there are 18 people still underground. They will be able to hold out for two more hours at a maximum," Sahin Uyar of the mine`s owner Has Sekerler told CNN-Turk television.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, who went to the scene, said that there had been 34 miners in the mine when the accident happened and 18 were still underground. The others managed leave the mine.
"Time is against us. Every two hours, the water rises one metre. The water is continuing to rise," he said in comments broadcast on Turkish television.
He said it was not clear where the water had come from, and added it could have been an accumulation of rainwater.
The government had come under fire over its response to the Soma disaster, and so Yildiz and Transport Minister Lutfi Elvan were quick to head to the scene of Tuesday`s accident.
Turkey`s emergency management agency AFAD has despatched 200 workers to supervise rescue efforts.
The Soma disaster sparked a wave of fury against then prime minister -- now President -- Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was accused of indifference to the plight of the victims.
It also reignited concerns over lax safety in a country with the highest rate of workplace fatalities in Europe, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Most of the victims at Soma died of carbon monoxide poisoning after the huge explosion that trapped hundreds of workers underground.
Eight members of the management team at the company operating the Soma mine -- Soma Komur -- were charged in May with manslaughter.
A new law took effect in September to tighten standards at mines in response to criticism of bad working conditions for Turkish miners.